Microsoft’s next operating system — provisionally known as Windows 8 — may not hit the shelves until early 2013, one respected company-watcher thinks, giving Apple, Google and Amazon more time to fine-tune their tablet offerings.
That’s later than most people expect for the new OS, which represents Microsoft’s first real foray into the touch-friendly, tablet-optimized world. The feeling is that Microsoft really needs to make its move before Apple’s iPad and tablets running Google’s Android march off with the whole market.
“I think it’s about a year away,” said Michael Cherry at independent research firm Directions on Microsoft, asked when Windows 8 code would be completed.
Then you have to factor in the delay between releasing the code to PC manufacturers to install on new machines — known as RTM — and general availability, said Cherry, a former Windows program manager.
“I believe there will be a RTM somewhere in the last quarter of 2012. Traditionally there’s been a 90-day gap between RTM and general availability,” he said. “To me, that means machine availability in 2013.”
In other words, don’t expect to get a Windows 8 tablet in your gift pile this Christmas or next.
Microsoft likes to keep a gap between releasing the code and allowing machines to go on sale as it gives all PC makers equal time to install the system and get machines on sale on the same day, for extra marketing buzz.
Cherry says he likes what he’s seen of Windows 8 so far, but there is a way to go.
“I think the work they are doing is really good, but really good stuff takes time,” he said.
Microsoft doesn’t have a firm date for release of Windows 8, which it wants to perform equally well on touch-interface tablets and regular PCs. It generally says it aims to have a new OS 18-24 months after the last one, which means a new version is due by October 2012.
Windows boss Steven Sinofsky unveiled a demo version of Windows 8 running on a Samsung tablet in September, but a full beta version of the code is not likely till early next year, said Cherry.
Don’t get too excited, Cherry warned.
“How I choose to interpret that is: they’ll have a set of hardware requirements from Microsoft at that time, they will build the machines based on the Windows 8 requirements, but they will initially sell them with Windows 7 on them,” said Cherry. “They may or may not include a coupon that says you get a free Windows 8 if and when it ships.”
Ultimately, Cherry says his own estimates and PC makers’ marketing buzz have no bearing on the arrival of Windows 8.
“It doesn’t matter what the head of any OEM (PC maker) says the ship date is. The only person that can give me a ship date is Mr Sinofsky. And as of this time, he chooses not to do so.”